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The Nature of Facial Emotion Recognition Impairments in Children on the Autism Spectrum


This study examined socio-emotional skills, utilizing a facial emotion recognition (FER) task featuring unfamiliar and familiar faces, in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) compared to typically developing (TD) children. Results showed that the TD children were more proficient on the FER overall whereas ASD children recognized familiar expressions more precisely than unfamiliar ones. Further, ASD children did not differ from TD children in recognizing happy expressions but ASD children were less skilled with recognizing negative expressions. Findings suggest that ASD children possess more adept FER abilities than previously thought especially for important social others. Ultimately, a task featuring an array of positive and negative familiar and unfamiliar expressions may provide a more comprehensive assessment of socio-emotional abilities in ASD children.

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Correspondence to Nathaniel A. Shanok.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Shanok, N.A., Jones, N.A. & Lucas, N.N. The Nature of Facial Emotion Recognition Impairments in Children on the Autism Spectrum. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 50, 661–667 (2019).

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  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Facial emotion recognition
  • Developmental disorders
  • Socio-emotional development
  • Emotional familiarity